|Publication number||US6144245 A|
|Application number||US 09/106,368|
|Publication date||Nov 7, 2000|
|Filing date||Jun 29, 1998|
|Priority date||Jun 29, 1998|
|Publication number||09106368, 106368, US 6144245 A, US 6144245A, US-A-6144245, US6144245 A, US6144245A|
|Original Assignee||Unitrode Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (17), Non-Patent Citations (2), Referenced by (44), Classifications (10), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention is related to the field of DC power supply circuits, and more particularly to circuits such as switching power supplies that employ power switching transistors.
In switching power supplies and other circuits employing power switching transistors, it is common for the operation of the circuit to depend in some manner on the amount of current flowing through a switching transistor. For example, most switching power supplies have protection circuitry that shuts the switching transistor off if it is conducting an excessive amount of current, to prevent the transistor from being damaged. This situation might arise, for example, if the output of the power supply is inadvertently short-circuited. The current being conducted by the transistor is sensed in some fashion, and a current sense signal indicating the magnitude of the current in the transistor is provided to the protection circuitry. Typically the protection circuitry compares the current sense signal with a reference signal indicating the maximum permissible current, and shuts off the transistor if the comparison indicates that the maximum permissible current is being exceeded.
One common problem in circuits that rely on a current sense signal from a switching transistor is the possibility of "false alarms", or conditions in which the current sense signal indicates that excessive current is being conducted but it is undesirable for the circuitry using the current sense signal to respond. A well-known example of such a condition occurs during a short interval after a switching transistor switches on, referred to as the "leading edge" of the current sense signal. For any of a variety of well-known reasons, the current through the transistor rises, or "spikes", to a very large value before returning to a more slowly-varying level as determined by the surrounding circuit. It is undesirable for protection circuitry to shut off the transistor under such transient conditions.
This problem of a leading-edge spike on the current sense signal has been addressed in prior switching power supplies by a variety of special spike-suppression circuits. One general class of spike-suppression circuits are referred to as "leading edge blanking" circuits. These circuits are activated just prior to the time that the switching transistor is turned on, and operate to override or "blank" the current sense signal during a brief blanking interval after the switching transistor is turned on. For example, the circuit node on which the current sense signal appears may be temporarily shorted to ground through a pulldown transistor. The protection or other circuitry using the current sense signal does not receive the transient spike, and therefore as is desired the circuitry does not respond during the blanking interval.
One approach to leading edge blanking has been to employ a one-shot timer. The timer is triggered at the same time that the switching transistor is turning on, and it provides a pulse of predetermined duration that is used to blank the current sense signal. This approach suffers some drawbacks that make it unattractive in many cases. The fixed blanking period set by the timer limits the frequency range over which the switching circuitry may be used. This fixed limit is problematic if the control circuitry for the switching transistor is intended to be used in a variety of different power supply circuits. Also, the limited accuracy of the timing circuit when combined with worst-case design constraints requires that the nominal blanking interval be larger than that required to effectively override the leading-edge spike, in order to accommodate production tolerances of component values. This requirement likewise may unnecessarily limit the range of applications of the circuit.
Another known approach to leading edge blanking is described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,418,410 to Eric Tisinger, entitled "Leading Edge Blanking Circuit". The blanking circuit in the Tisinger patent monitors the gate voltage of a MOS switching transistor connected between an output node and ground. A predetermined threshold level is established that is between a "plateau" gate voltage, reached early during the transistor's switching, and a final gate voltage reached when the transistor has completely switched. When the gate voltage exceeds the threshold level, the current spike has substantially subsided. The circuit operates by blanking the leading edge of the current sense signal until the gate voltage exceeds the threshold level. Because the circuit's operation is responsive to the operation of the actual switching device in the power supply rather than operating in a predetermined fixed manner, the blanking circuit is an example of "adaptive" leading edge blanking.
Adaptive leading edge blanking is in general a superior solution to the current spike problem, because it enables a blanking circuit to be used effectively despite variations in the characteristics of the switching transistor or other circuit components. However, the technique of monitoring gate voltage illustrated in the Tisinger patent does not provide adequate blanking when the actual gate voltage of the switching transistor cannot be monitored. This situation exists, for example, when the switching transistor is housed in a separate integrated circuit package from the blanking circuitry. In such a case there is series gate resistance existing in the gate drive path, between the circuit node at which the gate voltage is sensed and the actual gate of the switching transistor. In some cases a series resistor may be purposely placed in this path to accomplish other design goals; in other cases the series resistance may be an uncontrollable parasitic resistance arising from the packaging or circuit layout of the switching transistor. When series resistance is present, the real gate voltage of the switching transistor always lags behind the voltage used by the blanking circuitry. Thus blanking circuitry like that shown in the Tisinger patent is prone to terminate blanking prematurely, in which case erroneous operation of the circuitry using the current sense signal may result.
It is desirable to employ adaptive leading edge blanking of a current sense signal such that accurate blanking is achieved despite the existence of series gate resistance or other parasitics in the gate drive path of a switching transistor.
In accordance with the present invention, adaptive leading edge blanking circuits for use with switching-transistor current sensing circuitry are disclosed which operate accurately despite the presence of series resistance or other parasitics in the gate drive path of the switching transistor. The circuits are fully adaptive to the parameters of the switching transistor and the characteristics of the power circuitry with which the circuits are used. The circuits do not employ a timing circuit or a voltage monitoring circuit, and thus do not suffer the associated drawbacks as discussed above.
In the disclosed blanking circuits, a current sensor is employed to sense the magnitude of gate current being provided to the gate of the switching transistor by a driver circuit. A comparator indicates whether the sensed magnitude of the gate current exceeds a predetermined threshold current. Another circuit component, such as a transistor connected to ground, is a blanking component that blanks the current sense signal.
In one disclosed blanking circuit, the blanking component blanks the current sense signal when the comparator indicates that the gate current of the switching transistor exceeds the threshold current. The blanking component otherwise allows the value of the current sense signal to be determined by the current-sensing circuitry.
In another disclosed blanking circuit, a latch is interposed between the comparator and the blanking component. The latch generates a blanking control signal that controls the blanking component. The blanking control signal becomes asserted upon the assertion of a switching-control signal that controls the driver circuit, and it becomes deasserted when the comparator indicates that the gate current of the switching transistor has diminished to below the threshold current. Thus in the disclosed circuits the blanking interval ends when the gate current has sufficiently diminished, indicating that the initial spike in the switching transistor current has subsided.
Because the blanking interval is terminated based on the gate current of the switching transistor, the circuits are fully adaptive to the switching circuitry and thus can be used effectively under a variety of varying conditions. Moreover, the circuits do not suffer the timing inaccuracy of prior circuits that attempt to sense gate voltage to determine the end of the blanking interval.
Other aspects, features, and advantages of the present invention are disclosed in the detailed description which follows.
FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a first adaptive leading edge blanking circuit according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a timing diagram of several signals appearing in the blanking circuit of FIG. 1; and
FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of a second adaptive leading edge blanking circuit according to the present invention.
The present invention takes advantage of the fact that during the turn-on process of the switching transistor, the gate current flowing into the gate of the switching transistor from the driver circuit is proportional to the voltage of the gate. A blanking circuit according to the present invention monitors the gate current and uses it to represent the actual gate voltage. A signal indicating the magnitude of the gate current is compared with a threshold signal representing a predetermined threshold gate current, and the comparison is used to terminate the blanking interval.
An example of this technique is illustrated in FIG. 1. The transistor QD is a power switching transistor effective to switch a large current between a circuit node NOUT and ground. A sense resistor RS is used in conjunction with resistor RCS to develop a current sense signal ISENSE for use by control circuitry not shown in FIG. 1. This circuitry may be, for example, pulse-width modulator circuitry used to control the switching of transistor QD via an input signal IN, as is known in the art.
The switching transistor QD is controlled by driver circuitry including an inverting amplifier UD, a high-side transistor QH, and a low-side transistor QL. A resistor RGATE is shown in the path between the driver circuit and the gate of transistor QD. The resistor RGATE represents the cumulative series resistance in the gate drive path, which as discussed above may include designed-for resistances as well as parasitic resistances.
A blanking transistor QB is connected between ground and the signal ISENSE. The transistor QB is controlled by the Q output of a latch UB. The edge-sensitive SET input of the latch UB is connected to the input signal IN. The edge-sensitive RESET input of the latch UB is connected to the output of a comparator UC. The comparator UC receives as inputs a signal IREF and the output of a current sensor SH coupled to the current path between the high-side transistor QH and the switching transistor QD. The comparator UC preferably has hysteresis inputs to reduce the effects of noise. The signal IREF establishes the threshold gate current at which blanking is terminated.
The current sensor SH can be realized in a variety of ways, including the use of a sense resistor or resistive etch, a magnetic sensor such as a transformer or Hall effect device, scaled current mirrors, or the Kelvin output of a sensing field-effect transistor (FET).
The operation of the blanking circuit of FIG. 1 is described with reference to the schematic diagram of FIG. 1 and the timing diagram of FIG. 2. It is assumed that the switching transistor QD is initially OFF, so that the current sense signal ISENSE is low. At time T0, the input signal IN switches high. This causes the Q output of the latch UB to become high, which turns on the blanking transistor QB, thus forcing the signal ISENSE to remain low. This is the beginning of the blanking interval.
The gate current IGATE becomes a high value and begins charging the gate of the switching transistor QD. This high gate current causes the output of the sensor SH to increase correspondingly, which in turn causes the output of the comparator UC to go high.
As the gate voltage VGATE rises, the source-to-drain current ID through the transistor QD spikes to a large value. As shown, the voltage VGATE plateaus during the spike and then resumes its increase. As the spike subsides beginning about time T1, the gate voltage VGATE has reached a sufficiently high value to cause the gate current IGATE to diminish below the threshold IREF. The output of the comparator UC then goes low, causing the output of the latch UB to also go low. The blanking transistor QB is thus turned off, and the ISENSE signal takes on a value representing the current through the sense resistor RS.
As will be appreciated, it is important that the current threshold signal IREF be chosen such that blanking is terminated after the voltage VGATE on the gate of the switching transistor QD rises above the plateau voltage. This requirement is relatively easy to satisfy, however, because of the dramatic difference between the initial and final values of the gate current IGATE. The initial value of the gate current IGATE may be on the order of Amperes, whereas the final value is on the order of milliAmperes. So the technique has a fairly large tolerance for variation of the signal IREF.
FIG. 3 shows an alternative leading-edge blanking circuit. The circuit is similar in most respects to the circuit of FIG. 1, but relies directly on the output of the comparator UC to control the blanking transistor QB. This configuration has the effect of shifting the blanking interval slightly later in time, especially the leading edge. For some applications the simpler configuration of FIG. 3 may be adequate. In other applications it may be important that the blanking transistor QB be turned on as early as possible, in which case the circuit of FIG. 1, which uses the input signal IN for this purpose, is preferred.
The transistor QB serves as the blanking component in the circuits of FIGS. 1 and 3, but in alternative circuits the blanking component may be a different device or subcircuit. One ready alternative is an analog switch connected between the ISENSE signal and a pulldown resistor to ground.
An improved leading-edge blanking circuit has been described that effectively blanks the leading edge of a current sense signal generated by sensing circuitry sensing the current through a switching field-effect transistor. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modification to and variation of the circuit are possible without departing from the inventive concepts disclosed herein. Accordingly, the invention should be viewed as limited solely by the scope and spirit of the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||327/380, 327/322, 323/282, 327/538|
|International Classification||H03K17/16, H03K17/082|
|Cooperative Classification||H03K17/161, H03K17/0822|
|European Classification||H03K17/16B, H03K17/082B|
|Jun 29, 1998||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: UNITRODE CORPORATION, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BALOGH, LASZLO;REEL/FRAME:009517/0366
Effective date: 19980619
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